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Monday, December 8, 2014

Stray by Elissa Sussman

I am grateful for my father, who keeps me good and sweet. I am grateful for my mother, who keeps her own heart guarded and safe. I am grateful for my adviser, who keeps me protected. I am grateful for the Path, which keeps me pure. Ever after.

Princess Aislynn has long dreamed about attending her Introduction Ball, about dancing with the handsome suitors her adviser has chosen for her, about meeting her true love and starting her happily ever after.

When the night of the ball finally arrives and Nerine Academy is awash with roses and royalty, Aislynn wants nothing more than to dance the night away, dutifully following the Path that has been laid out for her. She does not intend to stray.

But try as she might, Aislynn has never quite managed to control the magic that burns within her-magic brought on by wicked, terrible desires that threaten the Path she has vowed to take.

After all, it is wrong to want what you do not need. Isn’t it?

It took me a while to actually get into this book, there were so many things I didn't like...So I think I shall start out with what I did. This is getting 3 stars and that's because the writing was solid, the characters had depth and the plot was character driven. The world building was a little simple but good, descriptions interesting and while the plot was, again, simple fairy tale format it was entertaining...mostly.

However there was so much in the plot I didn't like, so many times I wanted the smack the MC. Especially since the MC does not figure out her "Path" it utter and complete bull shit, even after she is basically tortured by a head mistress with a spindle, until about the last 50 pages of the 362 page book. In this word women are second class citizens who are "cursed" with magic and when it shows up they are sent to boarding school to learn sewing and etiquette etc... and how to rein in their magic...Unless they are commoners that is, then they are used as slave labor with custody spells and can use magic for chores. Fairy Godmother's can also use magic, and these are women who failed at boarding school or didn't get married within a year or so of turning 17. So they are Redirected and their loving heart is taken from them and they are basically the ladies-in-waiting (read keepers and tattle talers) of the wealthy upper class girls. Also did I mention based on your class you have to wear one specific color? Red for high royalty, blue for second (which is our MC), green for third and yellow for the last of the upper class, then you have the yucky! commoners.

The MC spends almost the whole book hating herself, trying to be good, feeling sorry for herself and just not getting a clue...She is actually pretty stupid...I know it's because of how she is raised, but MAN it took forever for her to realize how she was treated was crap. Starting with an older man (her advisor) trying to feel her up and ending with the fact she uses her magic to self harm because it's the only way she can get control over it...She is basically a magic cutter. At no point does the novel make it clear that self harm is WRONG and not a solution.

I made some notes about some of the things that bothered me the most...I will just list them here.

WARNING: Now I get I am supposed to think this place/world/school is horrible...but this story doesn't read like a satire and the MC never fully goes, "wow everything they taught me is bull shit." One day she just decides she doesn't like the path anymore, not that she doesn't believe the brain washing....she just wants to date the handsome servant boy and not get picked on...that's about as far as her thought process of "straying" goes. And btw this school she is in uses SEVERE and DISTURBING scare tactics and punishment.

1) It is made very clear the MC is not attractive (even though she is: MARY SUE) and that while she would like love she will be happy to simply get married because someone will get to be King if they marry her. She is OK with this, cause, "that's just the way it is." Barf

2) Page ten last line (The MC is talking about wanting to ask this girl to be her Lady-in Waiting, aka BFF) " young maidens were encouraged to find such a companion so they would refrain from annoying their husbands with the silly topics of conversation women preferred." At no point does the MC ever decide this is baloney. This line is just here in the story to stay...Cause you know us lady folk simply just talk about our period and hair dos.

3)Page 11, first line, "Occasionally there were rumors of friendships that had developed further than was appropriate, but advisers were quick to extinguish any such entanglements." This is mentioned a few times and honestly I felt the author was making a negative stance on lesbianism since the MC never actually says, "who cares?" There are hints of romance between two girls that I think would have made the book better had they explored it. Also as you are reading you understand that by extinguish the advisers usually get rid of one of the girls, not nicely.

4)Page 15, lines 11 and 12 "Aislynn reminded herself that she was the one to blame. She wouldn't be treated this way if she didn't deserve it." Ugh....is that abuse I just read?

5) Page 120 (There was a ton more...but I've stuck to only those things that REALLY bothered me) lines 15-19 , "The Book is where a maiden's magical occurrences are recorded," Brigid dried her hands and turned to Aislnn. "The headmistress maintains it, and it is passed on to the girl's husband once she marries. He keeps track of any continuing events after the wedding." What this passage doesn't reveal is if you are badly behaved afterwards he can have you Redirected to Fairy Godmother, and keep all your lands and wealth and re marry.

Lastly, you find out at the end that the MC's mother self harms with as well. When the MC expresses how she doesn't think she can have the life they want her parents tell her they don't care as long as she is SAFE and keep everything hidden, her mother shows her the bottom of her foot where she cuts herself and steps on it to remind herself not to use magic and to be good and follow the path. Her parents do eventually come to realize they just want their daughter alive and are pretty decent, but COME ON.

Ugh... I can't write anymore, most of this novel just made me furious. So Bright Blessings and read on...just maybe not this.